Rivers around the world are the beating heart of many towns and cities. Ancient civilizations gravitated to rivers and built settlements to use them for trade, agriculture, and navigation. In the modern age, they are still used for transporting goods and as a source of food and water.
Some rivers can flow for thousands of kilometers and through multiple countries. The exact length of a river is virtually impossible to measure as the length can change over time due to factors such as climate and erosion. The points at which a river is considered to begin, and end can also vary from person to person.
The data used for this article is sourced by data experts world-meters.com and may list river measurements that differ from other sources. This means the order in which the rivers are listed may differ from other lists.
In this article, we’ll look at where the world’s longest rivers are located and which countries they run through.
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Which countries have the longest rivers?
China and Russia each have four of the world’s longest rivers running through them. The Yangtze and Huang He are entirely contained in China, and parts of the Ob’ and Amur Rivers also run through the country. The Yenisei, Ob’, and the Amur Rivers all partly run through Russia and the Lena River is entirely contained within the country.
Continue reading to learn more about the world’s longest rivers, including the distances they span and where they flow out to.
What are the world’s longest rivers?
Listed below are the ten longest rivers in the world.
The Nile River flows through northeastern Africa in countries such as Egypt and Sudan. It measures 6,690 km (4,157 mi) from near Jinja, Uganda, to its outflow into the Mediterranean Sea. 95% of Egyptians live within a few kilometers of the Nile. The river has been an important route for trade and used for agriculture and fishing for thousands of years.
There has been some disagreement over whether the Nile or the Amazon River is the longest in the world. Many scientists believe the Amazon has a larger volume but that the Nile is slightly longer.
Although the second longest river in the world, the Amazon River is the largest river by discharge volume of water in the world. The South American River has an estimated discharge of 219,000 m3/sec of water on average. The river is 6,387 km (3,969 mi) long and starts 5,598 m high in the Peruvian Andes. It runs through countries such as Brazil and Columbia before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world. It starts in the mountains of Qinghai, China, and flows 6,380 km (3,964 mi) to Shanghai, where it flows out into the East China Sea.
Over 50,000 dams have been built in the Yangtze River since 1950, which disrupts the natural flow of the river. 13 large cities, 140 towns, and 326 villages were flooded by the Yangtze when the Three Gorges dam (the world’s largest hydropower station) was under construction from 1994 to 2012.
At 6,270 km (3,896 mi) long, the combined Mississippi-Missouri Rivers are the longest rivers in the United States and the fourth longest in the world. The Missouri River is a tributary, which means it flows into the Mississippi. It starts at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, and flows out into the Gulf of Mexico.
The widest section of the Mississippi River is at Lake Winnibigoshish near Bena, Minnesota, where the river measure 17.7 km (11 mi) across. The narrowest point of the river is at Lake Itasca, where the width of the river is between six to nine meters (20 to 30 feet).
Located in Russia and Mongolia, the Yenisei River is estimated to be 5,550 km (3,449 mi) long. It begins in Mungaragiyn-gol in Mongolia and flows north to the Kara Sea, which is an extension of the Arctic Ocean.
The Yenisei River can be divided into three main sections. It runs approximately 475 km (295 mi) from Kyzyl to Oznachennoye, 875 km (544 mi) from Oznachennoye to the Angara confluence and the final section flows from the Angara confluence out to the Kara Sea.
The Ob River is the second-longest river in Russia and measures approximately 5,410 km (3,449 mi). It also flows through China and Kazakhstan. The main tributary of the river is the Irtysh, which is the second longest tributary in the world (after the Paraná River, which flows into the Amazon River).
The river is one of western Siberia’s main routes for transportation, although it can only be navigated for 190 days of the year due to the ice that forms during cold months.
The Huang He, also known as the Yellow River, solely flows through China. It measures approximately 4,667 km (2,900 mi) from the southern Qinghai province on the Plateau of Tibet out to the Bohai Sea.
The river is often called the ‘Mother River’ and the ‘Cradle of the Chinese civilization’. It is believed that the ancient Chinese civilization originated along the basin areas of the Huang He in around the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE.
After the Nile, the Congo is the second-longest river in Africa, with a length of 4,371 km (2,716 mi). The river’s mouth is located in northeastern Zambia, at an approximate elevation of 1,760 m (5,760 ft) above sea level. It flows out into the Atlantic Ocean, having passed through nine different countries.
The Congo is the deepest river in the world, with a depth measurement of 219 m (720 ft) in some sections. It is also the second-largest river in the world in terms of discharge volume, at a rate of 41,000 m3/s.
The Amur River is the ninth-longest river in the world. It runs through Russia, China, and Mongolia. Its name in Chinese is Heilung Jiang, which means ‘Black Dragon River’. Starting from the Strait of Tartary, which is located between mainland Russia and Sakhalin Island in the Pacific Ocean, the river flows for 4,368 km (2,900 mi). It flows out into the Sea of Okhotsk, which is a marginal sea in the Pacific Ocean.
Between May and November, the river is ice-free and can be navigated for trade. Products such as Grain, salt, and manufactured goods are transported downstream, while goods such as oil, fish, and timber are transported downstream.
The Lena River flows entirely through Russia. It starts in the Baikal Mountains in southern Siberia and flows 4,260 km (2,647 mi) until it reaches the Laptev Sea (a marginal sea in the Atlantic Ocean).
The river is one of the cleanest sources of fresh water in the world. It follows its natural flow as there are no large dams or reservoirs that could alter its route, unlike other major rivers.
The table below shows the ten longest rivers in the world, how long they are, and which countries they run through.
|Rank #||River||Location(s)||Outflow||Length (km)||Length (mi)|
|1||Nile||Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of the Congo||Mediterranean Sea||6,690||4,157|
|2||Amazon||Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela||Atlantic Ocean||6,387||3,969|
|3||Yangtze||China||East China Sea||6,380||3,964|
|4||Mississippi||United States||Gulf of Mexico||6,270||3,896|
|5||Yenisei||Russia, Mongolia||Kara Sea||5,550||3,449|
|6||Ob||Russia, Kazakhstan, China||Gulf of Ob||5,410||3,449|
|7||Huang He||China||Bohai Sea||4,667||2,900|
|8||Congo||Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Angola, Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Cameroon, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda||Atlantic Ocean||4,371||2,716|
|9||Amur||Russia, China, Mongolia||Sea of Okhotsk||4,368||2,714|
China and Russia are each home to some of the longest rivers in the world. This includes the Ob and Amur, which flow through both countries. Between these two countries, six of the ten longest rivers in the world are located in China and Russia.
The longest river in the world is often considered the Nile in northeastern Africa, although the Amazon is also given that title depending on which source you look at. The deepest river in the world is the Congo, while the largest river based on water discharge is the Amazon.